Neighbours cast told last year Channel 5 agreed to 1 yr extension

News over the weekend came as little surprise to those at Neighbours -Channel 5 had been itchy for some time.

EXCLUSIVE: News that Channel 5 was cancelling Neighbours came as little shock to those behind the scenes.

Multiple sources tell TV Tonight that cast and crew were told mid-2021 the long-running soap had been given a one-year extension by the British broadcaster.

5 had been making noises about the show’s costs for some time.

Channel 5 bought the show in 2008 in a 10-year £300m deal. That would later become a 4 year deal, then a one year extension to June 2022 -lucky to have been secured at all given their increasing reluctance.

During that time not only did the pandemic impact on 5’s revenue, but a cultural shift has favoured home-grown drama. Perpetually sunny skies and big Australian back yards were escapist during 1980s Thatcherism. In 2022 audiences want to see themselves reflected, no matter where they live.

Channel 5 dramas such as All Creatures Great & Small have become increasingly successful. Ironically, even Fremantle-produced Aussie drama Lie With Me, created by Neighbours’ executive producer Jason Herbison, drew around 3.5m viewers in primetime for the cost of around 2 weeks of the soap itself.

Suddenly, the numbers for Ramsay Street were not stacking up.

Complicating the equation further -rather than complementing things- is the fact ViacomCBS owns both Channel 5 and Network 10. Yet sources suggest there was little joint strategy around the show. If 5’s DNA is more Viacom and 10’s more CBS, then both were running their own race with a licensed drama ….but said to be talking together very little.

This is suggested by an odd recent scheduling which has put Australian fans bizarrely now behind the UK.

While 10 dropped back to four episodes a week, to bring the show in line with UK episodes, 5 is believed to have backflipped on their plans to maintain at four episodes a week. At five episodes a week, UK viewers are now inching ahead of Australia (which will be alarming should it continue).

Channel 5 also moved a 5:30pm broadcast -one of two daily screenings- to 6pm, which increased the ad rates, but pitted the show against BBC News at 6. Meanwhile Home & Away, which has a much smaller UK following, moved from 6pm to 5Star -the Seven produced drama remarkably has a “run of series” lifetime deal.

The timing of the announcement is also significant.

In TV negotiations media is often used as a tactic. Whilst on the surface the news could read as 5 trying to call Fremantle’s bluff on the costs, it could even have been leaked by Fremantle to generate fan sentiment to attract a new broadcaster.

Four months allows time for a transition, should it come to pass.

While the show still rates in the UK, talk of streaming services appears to go against output practicalities. Most streaming shows package as 10 episode premium dramas, not as large-volume serials.

10 needs the local drama points and genuinely wants the show to continue. But the ball is in Fremantle’s court to find a new broadcaster.

At present production will continue until June with producers telling cast, “…for now, this chapter is closing and we want to work together to give Neighbours the amazing send off it deserves.”

As petitions generate the love, fans are hoping a twist worthy of a soapie cliffhanger is still yet to play out.

Your favourite current Neighbours character?

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27 Responses

  1. I’m a huge neighbours fan, but it’s going to be anti climactic, if after all this it it doesn’t end now. Too hang in for a couple more years for this too happen again? There’s definitely no shame in a 37 year run. It’s all so confusing, are they writing the finale scripts now only to have a decision change later on. Can’t wait for a final decision. A very stressful time for both fans and those directly involved.

  2. Paramount + makes a bit of sense, gives them long term content (launching soon in the UK etc…), easily helps them meet their local production quota here and gives them a show with a built in fanbase

  3. Network 10 should end Neighbours but spin it off, a show called Eden Hills or Ansons Corner. Keep the same cast / same characters ( well at least the legacy characters and do a poll on whose most popular) have Ramsay Street burn down. Most of the residents buy in Eden Hills or Ansons Corner. Technically it’s a new show and may get Government funding. Move it to an M rated time slot.air it 2 hour blocks a week. Monday and Thursday 7.30 – 8.30 like A country Practice

  4. A real shame that it (a) went to Eleven and (b) it changed time slots, I feel, most for the crew and cast as it is and has been a wonderful training ground for Australian crews and actors.

  5. I really hope they can find another broadcaster. I’ve watched since the beginning on Ch7 here in Australia. I really feel for everyone who works on the show. We don’t always agree with the writing, but they all do an amazing job. I hope they can continue to produce this show for a long time to come.

    1. There really isn’t a UK broadcaster who would want Neighbours. The BBC was ambivalent about the show a long, long time before they finally dumped it – partly because internal focus testing revealed many viewers watched because they liked to laugh at how bad it was, rather than because they genuinely liked it. So when Fremantle attempted to extract a huge renewal fee the BBC virtually leapt at the chance to say “no thanks”. At that time ITV also indicated that they didn’t want it. Channel 4 has an audience profile and cultural vibe that’s pretty much the opposite of Neighbours, so they weren’t interested then, and wouldn’t be now. And the cost factor rules out any of the more niche channels. The truth is Neighbours only lasted this long because Fremantle owned Channel 5 at the time the BBC passed, and Fremantle made the astonishing decision to pay a massive amount to, in effect, buy its own show. That Five is walking away now kind of tells you how dopey that decision was.

      1. Agree with everything OzJay says. The BBC and ITV both have gameshows that are performing well as news lead in’s. Eastenders has faltered for the BBC recently, but they have two new local soaps in development. They’re unlikely to want to reaquaint themselves with Neighbours. ITV is rejigging its primtime schedule to make it virtually wall to wall soap in the early everning – they don’t need another. Unless a streamer steps in, it’s looking like the end of the road. 37 years is an amzing achivement though, with the exception of Home and Away that will likely survive to pass that milestone in a few years, we’ll never see its like again. A show starting today would need to be on air until 2059 to match Neighbours longevity – a notion that seems positively laughable.

  6. Well, I guess if no new ‘partner’ is found then a call needs to be made on ending it in the coming weeks. Presumably they’ll want to try and see it go out with a bit of bang and perhaps try to lure back some of the big names from over the years for a last hurrah.

  7. “were escapist during 1980s Thatcherism”
    OK, so that explains why Brits loved Neighbours until 1990.
    But why did Brits love Neighbours for the next 30 odd years?

    1. The Brits love their regional, working class evening soaps. Coronation Street (Manchester 5.5m), Emmerdale (Yorkshire Dales), East Enders. Once kids started watching Neighbour and H&A at lunch time on the BBC they have continued to do so as they grew old. The difference between Home and Away and Neighbours is that Seven funds most of H & A for local drama points on Seven. Ten moved Neighbours to 11 slashing their payments as it shed half its audience and leaving Channel 5 as the main funder who calls the shots. Channel 5 signed a cheap life of series for H & A, but have dumped it from their main channel. Now that Channel 5 has All Creatures Great And Small (one of the UKs top Winter dramas) they are looking to try more local drama and Neighbours is expendable. Ten won’t be too unhappy, under the local content rules they can just repeat Neighbours, as 72 is doing with Sons and Daughters.

      1. This has got to be saved.

        While it has had recent controversy regarding racism amongst cast/crew, the show has been great in diverse castings and storylines eg LGTBI, fostering, cancer/MS/alcoholism. Plus provides loads of local industry jobs and development opportunities actors to go onto to directing etc.

        1. I have to laugh whenever anyone now praises Neighbours for diversity or for “progressive” LGBT storylines. The truth is they arrived at the party about the time the entire party moved on. Critics and audiences both were complaining about the show’s lack of racial and ethnic diversity for 25 years before the producers really addressed it in any vaguely meaningful way. And almost every issue they’ve addressed has been a good ten years after it ceased really being an issue. Introducing gay marriage after the national debate and plebiscite was a classic example. A brave drama with it’s finger on the social pulse would have raised the subject a good ten years earlier, or, at worst, managed to include it in storylines that ran parallel with the public debate leading to the vote. Doing it after the event and expecting praise for being brave and progressive is just pathetic – and it’s emblematic of why Neighbours was always safe, mediocre and largely timid dramatically.

          1. I feel you are judging harshly. As you know, I’ve been filing on LGBTI TV for some time. Neighbours aired the first same sex wedding in an Australian drama (which many still are yet to entertain) in a 6:30 timeslot and you’re suggesting it isn’t progressive. Sure it had a lot of ground to make up. But back in 2004 Lana (Bridget Neval) had the show’s first lesbian kiss, which by contrast Home & Away had to censor out in 2009, then again in 2020. Neighbours has LGBTI characters in sustained relationships, in all their soapie arcs, plus an ensemble transgender character / performer. Prior to the wedding there were scenes filmed during Mardi Gras which touched on social topics. If it had ground to make up, it’s streaked past many others.

          2. One further point…. you ask why Neighbours hasn’t tackled topics ahead of the national agenda…. Erinsborough High has had a trans student openly accepted well before the current debate on legislation around the very same.

          3. Well said David
            25 years ago – which was 1997 – Nobody was covering such issues on Australian TV.

          4. As Andrew Mercado well knows, Australian TV had its first gay characters and couples in 1972, courtesy of Number 96. And the first trans character, also in 96, at roughly the same time. Australian TV was once well ahead of the curve on these issues (and way before 1997). What’s more, the viewing public was largely fine with it. So Neighbours reluctance to go anywhere near “sensitive” social issues in its first 25 to 30 years is not really defensible. (By comparison Eastenders in the UK had its first regular gay couple in 1983). I should add that I do not blame the writers, who I happen to know advocated for more progressive storylines at various times through the years. But they were constantly stymied by deeply reactionary network drama executives who vetoed anything remotely daring until recent years when they finally saw the need for more street cred and began to view any kind of controversy as good publicity.

          5. No question the street was too WASP for too long, although there were fleeting gay characters most have forgotten in the 80s / 90s and even salon owner Gino whose sexuality was tactfully danced around 2001 – 2007. While Home & Away was PG, Neighbours was G rated, so progress took time. Back then Neighbours often to drink orange juice in the pub, especially if the scene involved anger. I should know, I was in the storylining dept. You can’t really compare all this to primetime M rated Box, 96, Prisoner etc. No question some EPs have been more progressive than others, but with Bridget Neval / Lana (amongst others circa 2005) change isn’t what I’d term as recent. And controversy is usually tied to a stunt, not ongoing sustained characters. p.s. happy to agree to disagree!

          6. You’re right – Australian was once the most progressive int he world. But when 96 and The Box went off air in 1977, that was no more bravery. Queer people were invisible on TV even before the AIDS crisis and they didn’t come back until the 21st century. You can’t blame a G-rated family show for not doing enough when adult shows in later timeslots were sometimes more timid

    1. Why do you say that? The show has been progressive and very much current and within it’s used by date for many years now. Would you prefer Celebrity Family Bake Me a Surprise Marriage in it’s place?

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